Anyone  with an interest in healthcare will be aware that there are fundamental transformations taking place in almost every aspect of healthcare delivery and how healthcare is being experienced by people. Technological developments in healthcare are rapidly gathering pace to the extent that we now have the concept of Exponential Medicine (Read The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care by Dr Eric Topol). 

Whilst many of these transformations are driven by innovations, they are also hugely influenced by global forces, such as demographic shifts (population growth and ageing populations), personal and global health risks (changing lifestyles, what people eat, pandemic infections, as well as other health threats), and changing health priorities (what policy-makers believe is important, such as maternal and child health).

The ways in which we organise, pay for and deliver healthcare are now undergoing some of the most rapid changes in history. People’s expectations for their health and health care are also different today than in the past. We believe that in future, healthcare systems will have to be much more accountable for how finite health resources are used to delivery the quality of care that people have a right to receive (I will write more about this in a future article where I will describe the innovations we are working on, using blockchain technologies).

This forefront of great transitions sits against a backdrop of realities we cannot ignore. Many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) will not meet their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for health. The future health needs of ageing populations in the North and rapid population growth in the global south will place even greater burdens on already constrained and often fragile healthcare systems. And there are big questions about how this will all be paid for and who will deliver the services that are needed.

Many countries face dire shortages in skilled health personnel (including midwives, nurses and physicians). A report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2013 -- A universal truth: No health without a workforce -- estimated that there is a global deficit of 7.2 million skilled health personnel. This is projected to to almost double to 12.9 million by 2035 (using conservative estimates). 

The foundations for a strong and effective health workforce for the future are being corroded in front of our very eyes by failing to match today’s supply of professionals with the demands of tomorrow’s populations. To prevent this happening, we must rethink and improve how we teach, train, deploy and pay health workers so that their impact can widen
— Dr Marie-Paule Kieney, Assistant Director General, WHO

Here at 9Needs, we have been thinking about how we can contribute towards tackling these challenges, with innovations that can help people and organisations to make great transitions from the legacy healthcare systems we have now, to future models of care that are more participatory, personalised, predictive and preventive.

Over the last year (together with ICS Integrare), we researched and produced an Innovation Brief for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to share some evidence and to present ideas for the concept of The Connected Health Workforce. We hope that this will add to the conversations people are having about how to solve both health workforce challenges and how to organise and pay for different models of healthcare.

Through our research, we identified a number of transformation drivers and the healthcare delivery models that are likely to change, summarised in the table below from our report. 

The coming Transformations in Healthcare

We would be interested to hear what other people think about our analysis and to engage with you to share ideas about the future of healthcare. Please feel free to connect, comment and add to the conversation.